This study investigated the role of adolescents' cognitive ability, personality traits and school success in predicting later criminal behaviour. Cognitive ability, the five-factor model personality traits and the school grades of a large sample of Estonian schoolboys (N = 1919) were measured between 2001 and 2005. In 2009, judicial databases were searched to identify participants who had been convicted of misdemeanours or criminal offences. Consistent with previous findings, having a judicial record was associated with lower cognitive ability, grade point average, agreeableness, and conscientiousness and higher neuroticism. In multivariate path models, however, the contributions of cognitive ability and conscientiousness were accounted for by school grades and the effect of neuroticism was also accounted for by other variables, leaving grade point average and agreeableness the only independent predictors of judicial record status. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.